National Hockey League
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      ***** National Hockey League Previews from The Sports Network *****
                              Thursday, January 29
                              (All times Eastern)
 
 MONTREAL CANADIENS (30-13-3) AT NEW YORK RANGERS (27-14-4), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Montreal Canadiens try to build off a perfect
 homestand on Thursday night as they hit the road for a game to take on the New
 York Rangers.
 
 The Canadiens bested the visiting New York Islanders and Nashville Predators
 before the All-Star break, then capped the perfect three-game stay at home on
 Tuesday with a 3-2 decision over the Dallas Stars.
 
 Carey Price made 40 saves to key the win, while Alex Galchenyuk scored for a
 third game in a row. Brendan Gallagher and Alexei Emelin added goals for the
 third-place Canadiens, who are one point back of Tampa Bay in the Atlantic
 Division and two behind first-place Detroit.
 
 Emelin did not get to celebrate the victory on the ice, however, as he was
 ejected at 5:21 of the second period for a boarding major and game misconduct
 call following a hit from behind on Dallas center Jason Spezza.
 
 "Carey was solid for us again. We still scored three goals, which is a good
 sign, but you could tell it was the first game after a five-day break,"
 admitted head coach Michel Therrien on Montreal's website. "Our execution
 wasn't there. At times, our concentration wasn't there, either."
 
 Montreal will begin a four-game residency following this road contest and will
 likely turn back to Price, who is 9-5-1 lifetime versus the Rangers with a
 1.99 goals against average, .937 save percentage and five shutouts.
 
 The Rangers may prefer to deal with Price tonight instead of the New York
 Islanders, who beat their cross-town rivals for the third time in as many
 meetings with Tuesday's 4-1 decision in Uniondale.
 
 The Isles have outscored the Rangers 13-4 in the three games and nearly shut
 out the Blueshirts on Tuesday before Carl Hagelin scored with 8.1 seconds to
 play.
 
 Henrik Lundqvist came up with 34 saves in the loss, which halted the Rangers'
 three-game win streak and leaves them fourth in the Metropolitan Division, one
 point back of Washington and four back of second-place Pittsburgh.
 
 "We haven't played well against this team (the Islanders), and it starts with
 our will to compete, a will to want to make plays and have confidence,"
 Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said. "We're just trying to catch these guys in
 the standings. They're playing real well and they're pulling ahead here, so
 we've got to find a way to consistently put a string of games together against
 the teams that are ahead of us and in our division."
 
 The Rangers play the first of four in a row at home tonight and Lundqvist is
 14-12-2 in his career versus the Canadiens with a 2.75 goals against average
 and .900 save percentage.
 
 The Rangers and Canadiens have split the first two of three meetings this
 season, with each club picking up a victory at home.
 
 New York topped Montreal 5-0 on Nov. 23 at Madison Square Garden, with
 Lundqvist posting 21 saves and five different Rangers lighting the lamp.
 
 The Blueshirts have won four of their past six at home in this series, but the
 Habs have claimed 13 of the previous 18 encounters overall.
 
 WINNIPEG JETS (26-15-8) AT PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (20-22-7), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - One drawback of the lengthy All-Star break is the chance
 of losing positive momentum.
 
 That may have been the case for the Winnipeg Jets, who look to rebound on
 Thursday night against the hosting Philadelphia Flyers.
 
 The Jets took a five-game winning streak into the break, but were bested 5-3
 on the road by the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. That has Winnipeg two
 points behind Chicago and St. Louis for second place in the Central Division.
 
 Adam Lowry and Chris Thorburn both had a goal and an assist versus the
 Penguins, Jacob Trouba lit the lamp and Evander Kane picked up three assists.
 Ondrej Pavelec made 25 saves in defeat.
 
 "We were able to get a couple leads throughout the course of the game, but
 weren't able to hold them," said Thorburn. "It's unfortunate."
 
 Thorburn, though, picked up his third goal in four games, while Kane has
 posted nine points in nine games.
 
 The duo looks to stay hot tonight versus the Flyers, who have won the first
 two of a five-game homestand and three of four overall.
 
 Philadelphia needed a shootout to record a 4-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes on
 Tuesday, with Wayne Simmonds notching the tiebreaker in the breakaway phase.
 
 "It is always nice to get the extra point, I thought we played well tonight
 and it was good to get that second point," said Simmonds.
 
 Simmonds, R.J. Umberger and Michael Del Zotto all scored in regulation, while
 Steve Mason got the win in relief of Ray Emery.
 
 Emery was pulled after less than six minutes of action as he gave up two goals
 on four shots faced. Mason, who hadn't played since Jan. 10 because of a
 lower-body injury, made 22 saves on 23 shots.
 
 The Flyers have won two straight and are 5-1-1 in their past seven games
 versus the Jets, including a 4-3 victory in overtime at Winnipeg on Dec. 21.
 
 Philadelphia rallied for that win, with Vincent Lecavalier's second goal of
 the third period with 3:14 on the clock tying the game. Jakub Voracek then won
 it 10 seconds into overtime with his second tally of the game.
 
 Voracek, who had six points in last weekend's All-Star Game, leads the NHL
 with 57 points and 40 assists.
 
 BOSTON BRUINS (25-16-7) AT NEW YORK ISLANDERS (32-14-1), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Boston Bruins hope to give their playoff hopes a big
 second-half push on Thursday night as they visit the Metropolitan Division-
 leading New York Islanders.
 
 The Bruins are playing for the first time since last Wednesday's 3-2 shootout
 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, just their second loss in eight games. Boston
 went 6-1-3 in its final 10 games before the All-Star break to grab a seven-
 point advantage for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
 Rust may be a factor tonight as the Bruins also were unable to practice on
 Tuesday due to a snowstorm in the area before finally hitting the ice on
 Wednesday.
 
 "Obviously, the break was nice," forward David Krejci told Boston's website on
 Wednesday. "I thought we were finding our game just before the break, so
 unfortunately, we didn't have practice (Tuesday), but I thought we did a
 pretty good job today. So yeah, we've got to start where we left off, and now
 we have to get back in a playoff position and try to climb up the standings."
 
 Boston appeared headed towards two points a week ago, but Colorado tied the
 game with 1:45 left in regulation and then got the lone goal of the shootout
 from Nathan MacKinnon.
 
 MacKinnon buried a wrister past Tuukka Rask -- who made 34 saves through
 overtime -- to begin the shootout, while Reilly Smith, David Pastrnak and
 Patrice Bergeron all came up empty on their chances.
 
 Torey Krug and Brad Marchand scored for the Bruins.
 
 "We played a good 58 minutes of hockey tonight," said Krug. "Killed a couple
 of penalties, and then we just let them back in."
 
 Bergeron returns to the Bruins off an excellent showing in Sunday's All-Star
 Game as he scored a goal and assisted on four others. Coincidentally, all four
 helpers came on goals scored by Islanders forward John Tavares.
 
 Tavares picked up right where he left off on Tuesday as he scored in the
 Islanders' 4-1 win over the New York Rangers. It marked the third time in as
 many meetings this season that the Isles have bested the rival Blueshirts,
 doing so by a combined 13-4 margin.
 
 Jaroslav Halak nearly picked up another shutout over the Rangers, but yielded
 a goal with 8.1 seconds to play. He ended up with 40 saves two weeks after
 shutting out the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
 
 "Everybody did a great job tonight," Halak said, "It's too bad they scored at
 the end, but it's two points at home."
 
 The Isles lead the Pittsburgh Penguins by three points for first place in the
 Metro.
 
 Mikhail Grabovski returned from a five-game absence caused by a lower-body
 injury to score, while Matt Martin and Ryan Strome also scored. Johnny Boychuk
 notched two assists in the victory.
 
 Tavares, meanwhile, has three goals and seven points over his last four games
 and helped the Islanders surge to a win despite Kyle Okposo missing his first
 game with an upper-body injury that is expected to sideline him for 6-to-8
 weeks.
 
 Okposo is second on the Isles with 44 points, two fewer than Tavares.
 
 The Islanders won the first of three meetings this season with the Bruins,
 taking a 3-2 decision at Boston on Oct. 23. Backup Chad Johnson made 30 saves
 and Boychuk returned to Beantown for the first time since getting traded by
 the Bruins to the Isles on Oct. 4.
 
 Halak figures to start tonight and is 8-3-0 versus Boston with a 1.86 goals
 against average, .942 save percentage and two shutouts in 11 games.
 
 Though the Isles have won four of the past five meetings overall, the Bruins
 have taken nine of their last 12 trips to Long Island and got 35 saves from
 backup Niklas Svedberg in the earlier meeting.
 
 However, that loss is best remembered for defenseman Zdeno Chara exiting early
 with a knee injury that sidelined him for 19 games.
 
 Rask, meanwhile, is 6-3-0 versus the Islanders with a 2.52 GAA and .920 save
 percentage.
 
 ARIZONA COYOTES (16-25-6) AT TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (22-23-4), 7:30 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Arizona Coyotes and Toronto Maple Leafs both have
 been unable to snap their lengthy losing streaks following the All-Star break.
 
 One club will finally catch a break on Thursday night as the Coyotes visit the
 Leafs in a battle of teams riding seven-game losing streaks.
 
 Arizona got the first crack at snapping its skid, but fell to 0-5-2 on its
 slump with a 4-3 shootout setback to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. That
 came despite the Coyotes scoring twice on their first four shots.
 
 Connor Murphy and Martin Erat had the early tallies and Tobias Rieder also
 scored, while Mike Smith made 39 saves through overtime.
 
 "We have to learn how to play a one-goal game. It's always nice when you come
 on the road and get a two-goal lead. You have to know and learn how to play
 with it," Erat admitted.
 
 The last four setbacks from Arizona have come at the start of an eight-game
 road trip and the club has lost seven in a row for the first time since March
 29-April 12, 2014.
 
 However, the franchise has not lost eight straight since a club record-tying
 10-game losing streak from Feb. 6-25, 1994 when it was still located in
 Winnipeg.
 
 One thing in the Coyotes' favor is the fact that they have won seven of their
 past nine versus the Maple Leafs, including a 3-2 home victory on Nov. 4.
 Antoine Vermette had the deciding goal and Smith made 28 saves.
 
 James Reimer had 30 saves in defeat for the Leafs.
 
 Toronto went into Wednesday night's meeting with the New Jersey Devils having
 lost six straight in regulation, and though the Maple Leafs did not snap their
 skid they did at least earn a point with a 2-1 setback in a shootout.
 
 James van Riemsdyk netted the lone goal for the Maple Leafs, while Jonathan
 Bernier stopped 22 shots.
 
 "I thought we played a pretty solid game; the shootout is always a coin flip,"
 van Riemsdyk said. "It's been a tough stretch for us, there's no hiding that."
 
 Toronto fell to 3-14-1 in its past 18 games and played without captain Dion
 Phaneuf due to a hand injury, an ailment that is expected to sideline the
 defenseman on a week-to-week basis.
 
 The Maple Leafs lost eight in a row from March 16-29 of last year.
 
 DALLAS STARS (21-19-7) AT OTTAWA SENATORS (19-18-9), 7:30 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - Jason Spezza makes his first return trip to Ottawa in a
 Dallas Stars sweater on Thursday night as his new club takes on the Senators
 hoping to avoid a third straight loss.
 
 The 31-year-old Spezza was the second overall pick by the Senators franchise
 in 2001 and he compiled 687 points (251 goals, 436 assists) over 686 games and
 11 seasons with the club.
 
 Spezza served as Ottawa's captain last season, but requested a trade last
 spring and was dealt to Dallas on July 1 along with prospect Ludwig Karlsson,
 while Ottawa received forwards Alex Chiasson, Alex Guptill, Nicolas Paul and a
 second-round pick in 2015.
 
 In his first season with the Stars, Spezza has posted eight goals and 27
 assists while ranking third on the club with 35 points. He inked a four-year
 extension with Dallas in November.
 
 "It felt to be good back on the ice. This day has been circled on my calendar,
 so it's nice to have it now and to get it over with (Thursday)," Spezza said
 on Dallas' website. "It didn't feel different. It brought back some memories,
 but (Thursday) is when it will be different being on the other side."
 
 It won't be Spezza's first time facing the Senators since the trade as the
 Stars picked up a 5-4 home victory over Ottawa on Jan. 13. The Sens led 3-1
 after the first period, but the Stars netted four goals in the second frame.
 
 Spezza did not record a point in Dallas' sixth straight victory over Ottawa.
 
 The Stars have lost seven of their past 10 (3-5-2) overall as they came out of
 the All-Star break with a 3-2 setback on Tuesday to the Montreal Canadiens,
 who got 40 saves from Carey Price.
 
 Jamie Benn scored for Dallas and assisted on a goal by Patrick Eaves, who
 returned to the lineup after missing 21 straight with a broken foot. Kari
 Lehtonen made 23 saves.
 
 "We had a lot of shots, and the opportunities were there," Seguin said. "Carey
 made some great saves tonight. He's one of the best goalies in the league."
 
 Forwards Erik Cole and Brett Ritchie both missed the game with injuries, but
 practiced on Wednesday and are questionable to return tonight.
 
 Lehtonen, meanwhile, is 8-5-0 lifetime versus the Senators with a 2.86 goals
 against average and .909 save percentage in 16 games (13 meetings).
 
 Ottawa has been out of action since last Wednesday's 4-3 win over the Toronto
 Maple Leafs. The Sens had lost three of four going in, but got a pair of goals
 from defenseman Erik Karlsson.
 
 Mike Hoffman posted a goal and an assist as he is tied for the NHL lead among
 rookies with 16 goals, while Mika Zibanejad also lit the lamp.
 
 Craig Anderson made 37 saves in the win.
 
 "It was a big win for us," said Anderson. "We make sure the fans get
 everything they pay for when we make it close at the end."
 
 Robin Lehner is expected to get the start tonight and he is winless versus the
 Stars, going 0-2-1 with a 3.98 GAA and .893 save percentage in three games
 with two starts.
 
 DETROIT RED WINGS (28-11-9) AT TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (30-15-4), 7:30 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The sizzling Detroit Red Wings hope to extend their lead
 atop the Atlantic Division when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning for
 Thursday's showdown at Amalie Arena.
 
 Detroit has won six straight and eight of its last nine games and the surge
 has pushed the Red Wings to the top of the Atlantic standings where they sit
 one point ahead of Tampa Bay.
 
 The Red Wings already had posted their longest winning streak of the season
 when they recorded a fifth consecutive victory on Jan. 20, beating the
 visiting Minnesota Wild in a shootout to head into the All-Star break with
 their hot streak intact.
 
 Detroit was able to extend the winning streak to six in its return from the
 break on Tuesday, posting a 5-4 regulation win over the Florida Panthers. Luke
 Glendening scored twice to help the Red Wings notch their first six-game
 winning streak since Feb. 8-19, 2012.
 
 Stephen Weiss posted a goal and two assists, Drew Miller scored a short-handed
 goal and Henrik Zetterberg also lit the lamp in the win. Petr Mrazek made 37
 saves to anchor the victory.
 
 "We really battled it out. It wasn't always pretty, but you've got to get
 those sometimes," Glendening said.
 
 The Red Wings, who are 12-7-3 on the road this season, haven't won seven
 straight since Jan. 12-23, 2012.
 
 With No. 1 netminder Jimmy Howard still out with a torn groin, the Red Wings
 could go with Mrazek in net again tonight. Mrazek's only career outing
 against Tampa came on Dec. 15 of last season when he surrendered two goals in
 a 3-0 home loss.
 
 The Lightning entered the break on a three-game winning streak, but were
 handed a 4-2 loss by Carolina on Tuesday. The regulation loss coupled with
 Detroit's victory allowed the Red Wings to hop over Tampa for first place in
 the division.
 
 Tampa Bay allowed Hurricanes captain Eric Staal to score just 22 seconds into
 Tuesday's game and the Bolts trailed for the rest of the game.
 
 "You come out and give a goal up in the first 20 seconds of the game,
 unacceptable, and it's basically an own goal," said Lightning coach Jon
 Cooper.
 
 Cedric Paquette and Brian Boyle supplied offense for the Lightning, while Ben
 Bishop took the loss after stopping only 18 pucks.
 
 Tampa is hoping to get back on track tonight when it aims for a ninth straight
 home win. The Bolts haven't been defeated at Amalie Arena since dropping a 5-3
 decision to Washington on Dec. 9 and boasts a 19-4-1 record as the host this
 season.
 
 The Red Wings have suffered losses in their last two trips to Tampa and the
 Lightning are 1-0 in the 2014-15 season series after picking up a 4-3 shootout
 win in Detroit on Nov. 9. Tampa Bay has claimed five of the past six
 encounters in this series.
 
 The Bolts, who complete a brief two-game homestand Saturday against Columbus,
 are expected to go with Bishop in net tonight. The club's No. 1 netminder owns
 a stellar 5-1-0 record and 1.69 goals against average in his career against
 Detroit.
 
 COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (21-22-3) AT FLORIDA PANTHERS (20-15-10), 7:30 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Florida Panthers have been a pleasant surprise for
 most of the season, but the struggling club desperately needs a win Thursday
 when it hosts the Columbus Blue Jackets at BB&T Center.
 
 The Panthers were just one point out of a playoff spot in the Eastern
 Conference following a three-game winning streak from Jan. 8-11, but the club
 has fallen back in the postseason race thanks to its current five-game losing
 streak.
 
 Florida's 0-4-1 stretch began with a lopsided 8-2 loss at Winnipeg on Jan. 13,
 a setback that put a sour ending on an otherwise solid 4-2-0 road trip. The
 Panthers have since lost four straight to open a five-game homestand and are
 hoping to salvage the finale tonight.
 
 The Panthers, who currently are seven points out of a playoff spot, lost 5-4
 against Detroit on Tuesday night. Florida held a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes,
 but the Red Wings opened the second period with four unanswered goals to take
 control of the game.
 
 Florida would eventually cut the deficit to 5-4, but were unable to get the
 equalizing goal.
 
 Aleksander Barkov finished with a goal and two assists in the loss, while Nick
 Bjugstad supplied a goal and a helper. Al Montoya made 10 saves in relief of
 Roberto Luongo, who gave up five goals on 17 shots.
 
 "There were a lot of guys that made some mistakes tonight that cost us some
 goals," Florida head coach Gerard Gallant said. "It was the first game back
 and was a sloppy game."
 
 Brad Boyes and Brandon Pirri also scored for the Panthers, who are mired in
 their first five-game losing streak since March 27-April 4 of last season.
 Florida hasn't dropped six in a row since a 0-6-0 drought from April 11-21,
 2012.
 
 Luongo is expected to start again tonight and the veteran owns an 11-6-6 mark
 and a 2.18 goals against average in 23 career outings against Columbus.
 
 Florida also expects to have enforcer Shawn Thornton back in the lineup
 tonight after he missed the last 20 games due to a groin injury. The veteran
 forward has one goal, one assist and 27 penalty minutes in 22 games this
 season.
 
 Columbus enters tonight's tilt 12 points out of a playoff spot in the East,
 but the club has won three of its last four games and is a solid 15-7-1 since
 the beginning of December.
 
 The Blue Jackets were coming off a successful stint as All-Star Game host and
 stayed at Nationwide Arena for Tuesday's 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals.
 Cam Atkinson and Fedor Tyutin each had a goal and an assist to lead Columbus
 to the home victory.
 
 Ryan Johansen and Mark Letestu each scored a goal for the Blue Jackets, while
 Curtis McElhinney stopped 25 shots in the win.
 
 "It looked like both teams had four or five days off because it was sloppy,"
 said Columbus head coach Todd Richards. "There wasn't much emotion on either
 side and no one was playing good hockey."
 
 McElhinney will likely start again tonight as he is expected to take over the
 No. 1 role while franchise goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is sidelined for at
 least the next month with a groin injury. McElhinney is 3-2-1 with a 2.62 GAA
 in his career against Florida.
 
 Columbus has dominated the Panthers in recent years, taking the past 10
 meetings in this series. The Blue Jackets can sweep the three-game season
 series with another win tonight against Florida, which last beat Columbus with
 a 5-2 road win on Nov. 21, 2007.
 
 The Jackets have taken five in a row on the road in this series. They are
 11-10-1 as the guest this season.
 
 NASHVILLE PREDATORS (31-10-5) AT ST. LOUIS BLUES (29-13-4), 8 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The red-hot St. Louis Blues will try to gain some ground
 in the Central Division title race when they host the first-place Nashville
 Predators in Thursday's matchup at Scottrade Center.
 
 Nashville has been atop the Central for most of the season and the Predators
 currently hold a five-point lead over both Chicago and the Blues.
 
 However, St. Louis enters tonight's tilt boasting a 7-0-1 record over its last
 eight games and is hoping to stay hot Thursday and gain some ground on
 Nashville.
 
 This evening's tilt marks St. Louis' first game after the All-Star break, as
 the club hasn't played since beating Colorado 3-1 on Jan. 19. That victory
 gave the Blues a 5-0-1 mark on a seven-game homestand that is set to end
 tonight.
 
 St. Louis picked up its second straight win in its most recent trip to the
 ice, with Jaden Schwartz tallying a power-play goal and an assist to help the
 Blues down the visiting Avalanche.
 
 Carl Gunnarsson and T.J. Oshie also scored in the win, Alexander Steen
 extended his point streak to 10 games with two assists and Brian Elliott made
 17 saves for the Blues.
 
 "Tonight I thought was probably our best game this year, from the goalie out,"
 said Steen, who has seven goals and 11 assists during his point streak.
 
 Elliott will get the start in net tonight for the Blues, while backup Jake
 Allen is slated to play tomorrow at Carolina.
 
 In other news, St. Louis will no longer carry three goaltenders on its roster
 as Martin Brodeur has decided to call it a career. The 42-year-old future Hall
 of Famer spent his first 21 seasons with New Jersey before signing a one-year
 deal with the Blues earlier this season. Brodeur will announce his retirement
 from the sport at a press conference on Thursday morning at Scottrade Center
 and then take on a job in the St. Louis front office.
 
 Brodeur went 3-3-0 with a 2.87 goals against average in seven appearances with
 St. Louis. He led the Devils to three Stanley Cup titles during his standout
 career and he retires as the NHL's all-time leader in numerous categories,
 including wins (691) and shutouts (125).
 
 The Predators are trying to get by without franchise goaltender Pekka Rinne,
 who suffered a lower-body injury earlier this month and will be sidelined for
 at least the next few weeks.
 
 Nashville is 2-1-1 since Rinne went down to injury and the Central leaders
 halted a two-game slide when it emerged from the break to post a home overtime
 victory against Colorado on Tuesday.
 
 Craig Smith scored at 2:46 of the extra session to lift the Predators to a 4-3
 win.
 
 Colorado had tied the game on Nick Holden's goal with 36 seconds left in
 regulation, but Nashville was still able to win the game shortly after Carter
 Hutton made a tough save on a Zach Redmond one-timer.
 
 The Predators skated down the other way and Mike Ribeiro sent a saucer pass
 from the right boards to the left for Smith, who skated down the middle and
 snapped a wrister past Semyon Varlamov for the victory.
 
 "It certainly wasn't what we wanted to do at the end of the game," said
 Nashville head coach Peter Laviolette. "But I thought the guys came out with a
 lot of energy in the overtime and I'm glad we were able to pull this one out."
 
 Filip Forsberg, Colin Wilson and Roman Josi all scored while Ribeiro posted
 three assists for the Predators, who had lost their final two games before the
 All-Star break for their first losing streak of the season.
 
 Hutton stopped 21 shots in the win. With Nashville also scheduled to play
 tomorrow at Colorado, it's unclear if Hutton or Marek Mazanec will get the
 call in net tonight.
 
 Thursday's contest marks the start of a three-game road trip for the Preds,
 who are 12-8-4 on the road this season.
 
 Tonight's test marks the fourth and final regular-season meeting between the
 Blues and Predators. Nashville is 2-1-0 against the Blues this season, winning
 two straight on home ice since St. Louis notched a win at Scottrade Center on
 Nov. 13.
 
 The Blues, who own a 18-4-2 record as the host this season, have won three of
 four and five of their past seven home games versus Nashville.
 
 MINNESOTA WILD (21-20-6) AT CALGARY FLAMES (26-19-3), 9 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Calgary Flames will try to keep building their case
 for the playoffs when they host the Minnesota Wild in Thursday's battle at the
 Saddledome.
 
 Calgary picked up its fifth win in six games Tuesday, as the club began its
 post-All-Star scheduled with a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. It marked a
 positive start to a six-game homestand for the Flames, who ended a three-game
 slide on home ice and improved to 12-9-2 as the host.
 
 With 55 points, the Flames currently hold the last of two wild card spots in
 the West. Calgary is one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for that
 distinction and five points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the first wild card
 berth.
 
 Josh Jooris, Joe Colborne and Johnny Gaudreau scored in a span of eight-plus
 minutes in the third period to help the Flames down Buffalo and the lowly
 Sabres to a 12th straight loss.
 
 Gaudreau added a first-period strike and Jiri Hudler added a pair of assists
 for the Flames.
 
 "We had some big goals," said Flames coach Bob Hartley. "In the second period
 we could have scored four or five goals. We missed the net on a few occasions,
 but I felt that we got our legs."
 
 Jonas Hiller backed up his timely offense with a 17-save effort, his first win
 since Dec. 31. Hiller will start again tonight and own an 11-5-1 record and
 2.39 goals against average in his career against Minnesota.
 
 The Wild ended a two-game slide in its first game following the break, picking
 up a 2-1 regulation win Tuesday in Edmonton. The close victory improved
 Minnesota's record over the last five games to 3-1-1, but the club is still
 seven points behind Calgary for the West's last playoff spot.
 
 Charlie Coyle scored Tuesday's game-winning goal with 4:23 remaining in
 regulation. The deciding effort came after Coyle skated down the left side
 past two defenders, dragged Viktor Fasth out of his net and capped off the
 play by tucking the puck into the net from below the goal line.
 
 "We came out to win, that's all that matters," Coyle said. "It's always nice
 to help out on the scoresheet."
 
 Nino Niederreiter also scored and Devan Dubnyk made 23 saves for the Wild, who
 improved to 10-13-1 on the road this season.
 
 Dubnyk is 2-1-0 since coming over from Arizona in a trade and he could get the
 start again tonight. He is 6-5-3 with a 2.42 GAA in his career against
 Calgary.
 
 The Wild are playing the third part of a four-game road trip tonight and will
 close the swing Sunday in Vancouver.
 
 Tonight's game marks the first of three meetings between the Flames and Wild
 this season. Minnesota is 6-2-1 over the past nine encounters, but Calgary has
 claimed four of the past six meetings at the Saddledome.
 
 BUFFALO SABRES (14-31-3) AT EDMONTON OILERS (12-27-9), 9:30 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Buffalo Sabres will try to end the longest losing
 streak in franchise history when they visit the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday in
 a meeting between teams sitting last in their respective conferences.
 
 Buffalo has lost 12 straight -- all in regulation -- for the longest slide in
 club annals. The Sabres, who haven't won since Dec. 27 against the New York
 Islanders, also are mired in the NHL's longest pointless stretch since the
 Pittsburgh Penguins lost 13 in a row in regulation from Jan. 13-Feb. 12, 2004.
 
 A loss of any kind tonight also would give Buffalo the longest winless stretch
 in team history. With Tuesday's 4-1 loss at Calgary, the Sabres matched the
 dubious franchise mark set from Nov. 23-Dec.20, 1991, when Buffalo went 0-8
 with four ties during a 12-game span.
 
 Buffalo enters tonight's tilt with an NHL-low 31 points, two less than the
 Oilers, who are last in the Western Conference. Edmonton beat the Sabres
 earlier this season, posting a 3-2 regulation win in Western New York on Nov.
 7. That was the Oilers' second victory in the past three meetings after losing
 their previous six encounters with Buffalo.
 
 The Sabres have won four straight in Edmonton, but Buffalo has lost 12
 straight (0-11-1) on the road. Buffalo's last win away from First Niagara
 Center came in Montreal on Nov. 29.
 
 Buffalo held a 1-0 lead Tuesday in Calgary, but the Flames scored the next
 four goals to skate away with an easy win.
 
 Chris Stewart netted the lone goal for the Sabres, while Jhonas Enroth stopped
 27 shots in the setback.
 
 "They turned it up a notch and we just couldn't keep up," Sabres coach Ted
 Nolan said.
 
 Buffalo is playing the third part of a five-game road trip tonight. Nolan's
 club will continue the swing tomorrow in Vancouver before capping it Tuesday
 in Montreal.
 
 The Oilers had won two straight before the All-Star break but lost their first
 game after the hiatus, dropping Tuesday's 2-1 decision against visiting
 Minnesota. Charlie Coyle scored the game-winning goal with 4:23 remaining in
 the third period.
 
 Boyd Gordon provided Edmonton's lone goal and Viktor Fasth stopped 27-of-29
 shots in defeat.
 
 "We were flat and we have to respond next game," said Gordon. "We've been
 playing well as of late and we saw that more in the third."
 
 After tonight, Edmonton will play two straight and eight of its next nine on
 the road. The road-heavy stretch begins Saturday in Calgary.
 
 ANAHEIM DUCKS (32-10-6) AT SAN JOSE SHARKS (25-17-6), 10 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Anaheim Ducks will try to match their longest
 winning streak of the season and extend their lead atop the NHL standings when
 they visit the rival San Jose Sharks on Thursday.
 
 The Ducks have won six straight and lead the NHL with 70 points, three more
 than the Nashville Predators.
 
 Another victory tonight would give Anaheim its third seven-game win streak of
 the season. Bruce Boudreau's club won seven straight from Oct. 11-24 and again
 from Dec. 1-13.
 
 The Ducks won five straight before the All-Star break and kept the hot streak
 going with Tuesday's 4-0 triumph in Vancouver. Frederik Andersen only needed
 to stop 17 shots for his third shutout of the campaign and he improved to
 27-6-5 on the season.
 
 Andersen also tied an NHL record for the quickest goaltender to reach 47
 career wins. The 25-year-old Dane reached the mark in 63 career decisions
 (47-11-5) to tie Bill Durnan, who notched his 47th win for the Montreal
 Canadiens on Nov. 26, 1944.
 
 Rickard Rakell had a goal and an assist while Patrick Maroon, Matt Beleskey
 and Kyle Palmieri also scored for the Ducks, who hold a 14-point lead over
 second-place San Jose for the Pacific Division lead.
 
 "The whole team is getting stronger," said Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm.
 "We feel like we're playing good out there. We just need to keep it up."
 
 Andersen, who has started 39 of 48 games for Anaheim this season, could get a
 rare night off either tonight or on Friday when the Ducks are scheduled to
 host Chicago. He is 5-0-1 with a 1.29 goals against average in six career
 outings against the Sharks.
 
 Ducks backup Ilya Bryzgalov, who last played on Jan. 16 against New Jersey, is
 10-11-4 with a 2.35 GAA in his career versus San Jose.
 
 The Sharks are playing their first game after the break tonight and they hope
 to begin their post-All-Star schedule by continuing their run of success
 against the first-place Ducks.
 
 San Jose is 3-0-1 against the Ducks this season and tonight's matchup marks
 the final regular-season meeting between the clubs in 2014-15. The Sharks have
 claimed eight of 11 overall in this series and Anaheim has lost six straight
 in San Jose.
 
 Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi made 28 saves for a shutout victory when the
 clubs last met on Dec. 31 in Anaheim. The 3-0 decision is just one of two
 times this season the Ducks were shut out, with the other occurrence happening
 on Oct. 30 in St. Louis.
 
 San Jose hasn't played since beating Los Angeles on Jan. 21, when Logan
 Couture had two goals and an assist to help the Sharks record a 4-2 victory.
 That win came in the fourth segment of a seven-game homestand and pushed San
 Jose's record at SAP Center to 12-8-3.
 
 Patrick Marleau had a goal and an assist while Joe Pavelski also scored for
 the Sharks, who snapped a two-game skid. Niemi allowed two goals on 28 shots.
 
 "What is most satisfying is the competitiveness that we showed up with,"
 Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said. "We have to capture it and be prepared
 to bring it to the rink after the break every night."
 
 Niemi could get the start tonight. He is 13-9-1 with a 2.48 GAA in 23 career
 outings against the Ducks.
 
 
 
 01/29 11:04:26 ET